The Timing, Nature, and Range of Neurobehavioral Comorbidities in Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy

Dace N. Almane, Jana E. Jones, Taylor McMillan, Carl Stafstrom, David A. Hsu, Michael Seidenberg, Bruce P. Hermann, Temitayo O. Oyegbile

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Accumulating evidence suggests that considerable cognitive and psychiatric comorbidity is associated with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy, for which the etiology remains controversial. Our goal was to comprehensively characterize the status of multiple neurobehavioral comorbidities in youth with new- or recent-onset juvenile myoclonic epilepsy, before effects of chronic seizures and medications. Methods: A total of 111 children aged eight to 18 years (41 new- or recent-onset juvenile myoclonic epilepsy and 70 first-degree cousin controls) underwent neuropsychological assessment (attention, executive, verbal, perceptual, speed), structured review of need for supportive academic services, parent reports of behavior and executive function (Child Behavior Checklist and Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function), and formal structured psychiatric interview and diagnosis (Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia–Present and Lifetime Version). Results: Children with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy performed worse than controls across all tested cognitive domains (F(1,105) = 3.85, P < 0.01), utilized more academic services (47% versus 19%, P = 0.002), had more parent-reported behavioral problems and dysexecutive function with lower competence (P < 0.001), and had a higher prevalence of current Axis I diagnoses (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression, and anxiety; 54% versus 23%, P = 0.001). Academic and psychiatric problems occurred antecedent to epilepsy onset compared with comparable timeline in controls. Conclusion: Comprehensive assessment of cognitive, academic, behavioral, and psychiatric comorbidities in youth with new- or recent-onset juvenile myoclonic epilepsy reveals a pattern of significantly increased neurobehavioral comorbidities across a broad spectrum of areas. These early evident comorbidities are of clear clinical importance with worrisome implications for future cognitive, behavioral, and social function. It is important for health care providers to avoid delays in intervention by assessing potential comorbidities early in the course of the disorder to optimize their patients’ social, academic and behavioral progress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPediatric Neurology
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Academic issues
  • Antecedent to seizures
  • Behavior
  • Children
  • Cognition
  • Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy
  • Psychiatric comorbidities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology

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